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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Concord, CA USA

    2008 Bicycle Tour of Colorado

    I just finished this year's Bicycle Tour of Colorado - Durango/Telluride loop. Here's my long-winded report.

    BTC this year was billed as 403 miles with about 30,000 feet of climbing, starting and ending in Durango, with a day off in Telluride. My brother and SIL did BTC in 2006, and invited me to go along with them this year. We chose the hotel option, and didn't pre-purchase meals.

    I shipped my bike to Durango ahead of time, but not without a small drama. In packing the bike for ground shipping I discovered a chip (or maybe it was a chunk) in the fork. I packed the bike up anyway, thinking it wasn't a big deal, and the pickup was due the next morning. After a sleepless night imagining all the awful possibilities of a failed fork I decided to cancel the pickup and replace the fork. So, one new Ouzo Pro fork later, and now too late for ground shipping, the bike went out by 3 day air (at double the cost).

    (Much of this is taken from posts on the BTC 2008 thread at BikeJournal, where, if you're interested, you'll find others' interesting stories and pictures.)

    Day 1 Durango to Ouray - 70 miles, 7100 feet of climbing, including 3 passes
    BRUTAL! But beautiful too. I think I went to my 30x27 (!) on the first pass, and then spent the rest of the day in that gear.

    About a quarter mile from the top of Coal Bank Pass (elev 10,640) I started feeling nauseous and stopped for a gel. While catching my breath I heard a panted "nice jersey" from a rider passing by. Hmm, Club Hypoxia jersey and big bruise on leg - it was Howard (of BikeJournal infamy).

    Molas Pass (elev 10,910) was scary and reinforced my fear of heights! There are quite a few stretches where the pavement (and white line) end at a freaking LEDGE. WTF!?! I took the lane and couldn't force myself closer than about 3 feet to the edge.

    The rain was just starting as I headed down Molas, but as a stupid Californian I continued on anyway - a little bit of rain and hail never hurt anyone, right?

    Red Mountain Pass (elev 11,018), although hard, was not as hard as the prior two passes for me, but that was probably since by this point I was pretty hopped up on Vitamin I, and really focused on my HTFU band. Here's a picture of the mill prior to the climb, note that the road continues WAY up:

    Me (not feeling very well) on Red Mountain:

    The descent down into Ouray was absolutely stunning (but very bumpy), but unfortunately I didn't stop for pictures.

    We paid $10 for the BTC dinner that night, which was really stupid considering there are many good restaurants in town. As a vegetarian, the BTC dinner was less than nourishing, with a tofu jambalaya w/o tofu.

    We stayed at the, um, small but quaint River's Edge motel that night.

    Day 2 Ouray to Montrose - 70 miles, about 4000 feet of climbing
    After a disappointing $5 BTC breakfast (where is the maple syrup?) in Ouray we headed off for the nice downhill ride into Montrose. At the first rest stop I spotted a Bike Journal jersey, and then a tall woman in sandals, and then a Club Hypoxia jersey - SuperNana, BalticTiger and Howard! BJ celebrities! They're lucky I didn't ask for their autographs! We chatted for a bit, and they graciously posed for a picture with me.

    I was really hoping to make this a recovery ride, and do only the short ride to Montrose. But once there, my SIL said something about needing to "earn it", what "it" was I have no idea, but this meant we had to ride out to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

    After downing a smoothie we left for the brutally hot climb up to the park. The views of the canyon along South Rim Road were worth the climb, but the road was not quite as flat as the profile led us to believe.

    After a very hot and somewhat windy return to Montrose, we had an excellent dinner buffet at Nepal restaurant, then tucked into our comfy beds at Quality Inn.

    Day 3 Montrose to Telluride - 36 miles and about 3500 feet of climb (out of planned 65 miles and 5-6000 climb)
    This turned out to be my worst day on a bike, ever. Worse even than the Siskiyou Century a few years ago where SadieKate, pkq and a few others had to drag my carcass the last 15 miles.

    My nutrition the first few days wasn't optimal - I couldn't eat at all at the rest stops on the high passes, and overall wasn't getting enough calories. The morning of day 3 I awoke feeling tired and weak. I somehow made it the 18 miles to the first rest stop, sweating profusely and nauseous. I then sat on a rock trying to choke down a tiny pastry. I spotted Howard and Tenbrooks (also of BJ), and went over to talk to them, unfortunately I think all I talked about was barfing.

    I then set out for the slow and painful climb up the Dallas Divide (elev 8,970). Tenbrooks passed and slowed to my snail's pace to introduce TahoeT, then they both zoomed away. I stopped at least a dozen times over the next 18 miles, but miraculously made it to the top. I then staggered off my bike and saw an angel before me, in the form of a woman selling an energy drink, the name of which I've forgotten. What a lifesaver! I had the "combo", and was revitalized enough to crawl into the SAG wagon to be ferried off to Telluride. I was nearly in tears when I got in the van, I've never had to SAG before and really felt like I'd "failed". I definitely didn't earn "it" that day. It did, however, start pouring minutes after I got in the van. Once in Telluride I shelled out $10 for the BTC lunch, only to find the vegetarian chili promised was not actually available.

    The last of the 2000 riders ahead of me:

    Hurray! A day off tomorrow!

    Day 4 - Day off!
    Slept late, then just like the hobbits I had first breakfast and second breakfast, and continued stuffing my face all day. Gotta refill the tank, ya know. We were staying at Camel's Garden, next to the gondola and lift 8. (Ok, lift 8 wasn't running, but what a great location in the winter!)

    After breakfasts we took the gondola to St Sofia station and Mountain Village and wandered around a bit there and back in downtown Telluride. What a gorgeous little town! Unfortunately we never saw the bear reported by others.

    Here's a view of Tent City at the edge of town, from St Sofia station:

    And the very charming town nestled in the valley:

    The beaver dam at the southern edge of town:

    Bridal Veil falls toward the east:

    Day 5 Telluride to Naturita - 52 miles and downhill! OK, one climb of about 1500 feet
    It's a really pleasant downhill from Telluride along the San Miguel river, and I got to enjoy the canyon views which I'd missed in the van the afternoon of day 3. Most of this route was beautiful, but unfortunately I didn't stop for pictures. I think I passed the Club Hypoxia trio on a photo op along the Norwood climb . Naturita was small and hot, but the townspeople really were great, and put on a nice party. As non-campers, we shuttled back to Telluride for another night. I have to mention the restaurants for anyone who might travel to Telluride - Baked in Telluride for delicious baked goods and tacos, Siam restaurant for excellent Thai, and La Cocina for excellent Mexican.

    Day 6 Naturita to Cortez - Century Day! - 100+ miles, 5000 feet climbing
    We started the day reenacting "Night of the Living Dead": 4:15am and groups of cyclists (in biking shoes) walking down the middle of Main St, Telluride in total darkness. Why? Because the hotel shuttle was very unclear as to where the pickups would be to take us back to Naturita, so many, like us, hoofed it back to the high school. It really would have looked very bizarre and somewhat eerie to anyone out at that hour.

    We were on the road by 6:30. The Gypsum Gap and Disappointment Valley climbs had stunning scenery and weren't too difficult - although it was very hot on the second climb and the water stop (by BTC or just a friendly local?) was welcome. Unfortunately, no pictures again. The last 40+ miles was mostly a hot slog to Cortez, with the highlights being a stop at the cafe in Dove Creek for a root beer float, and a smoothie at the final rest stop.

    Day 7 Cortez to Durango - 45 miles, 3300 feet climbing
    Ugh. Who needs more climbing? We do, apparently. Once out of Cortez, the Mancos Valley is really quite pretty, and the downhill into Durango was a blast and a great way to finish the week.

    After picking up some schwag post-ride we drove out to Mesa Verde to spend the night. We saw several cyclists from the tour who'd made the climb up to the park. (This climb does not look easy - probably 4000 steep feet, with many downhills on the way up.)

    Step House:

    Long House:

    Fire damage:

    We took a nice 10 mile spin along the Mesa Top and Cliff Palace loops early Sunday morning before the crowds arrived, then headed for home.

    Overall thoughts - It was a fun , but hard, week. I don't think I'll do the ride again, though. I really want my touring to be about the journey - to explore the sites and local eateries along the way - not to just ride from rest stop to rest stop as fast as possible with a crowd of people.

    BTC (whoever they are) did a really excellent job in organizing the event. Moving 2000 cyclists and all the support crew 400 miles around the state, with a different route each year, is a huge challenge and they do it well.

    My only complaint would be about the food (of course, it is all about the food). I really think a post-ride meal should have been included free each day, with a free lunch along the route on the century day. The catering service for the paid meals was really sub-par and would be a disaster for a vegetarian who'd pre-paid for meals, since a nutritional meal with a good protein source didn't seem to be available.

    Totals for the week, including some toodling around town by bike when necessary, about 379 miles and 24,000 feet of climbing.

    They must have known I was in town:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area
    You only think you're a whiner. I think you should have slapped your SIL up the side of the head.

    What gorgeous scenery! Thanks, you have made Colorado stay on my to do list.

    Discipline is remembering what you want.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    I don't think you get to call yourself "slacker" up there under your user name!

    What an amazing ride!! And great pictures! But frustrating about the meal situation.

    Did you feel like the altitude was a problem, compared to the lack of calories? Did you take that anti-altitude-sickness stuff?

    In any case - what an accomplishment!
    Keep calm and carry on...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Concord, CA USA
    I am definitely still both a whiner and a slacker.

    I did not take any anti-altitude medication. I think my problems eating at elevation were probably due both to the altitude and over-exertion, since I can usually chow down while on a ride. I think my bonk was due to lack of calories and the need for more sleep and a little recovery.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Yah, only 24,000 feet of climbing while on a "crash diet" - what a slacker!!!!

    Seriously, though, I really enjoyed your ride report and pics. Hopefully you gave them feedback about the vegetarian meals.

    - Melissa
    I'll get back on the bike soon, I promise!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Marin County CA
    Wow - great ride and pics! Sounds pretty epic to me.

    I need one of those HTFU bands....

    When it's easy, ride hard; when it's hard, ride easy.

    2011 Volagi Liscio
    2010 Pegoretti Love #3 "Manovelo"
    2011 Mercian Vincitore Special
    2003 Eddy Merckx Team SC - stolen
    2001 Colnago Ovalmaster Stars and Stripes



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